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Transitional living apartments to reopen

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Ann Fiore
December 7, 2007
— One last inspection for lead dust is all that’s preventing Danielle Anderson from moving back into her Jeffris Flats apartment.

That, and a moving van.


But she’s already made sure the place will feel like home. Last week, she set up a Christmas tree. When her 16-month-old daughter, Serenity Findlay, sees it, she’ll find a new toy sitting underneath.


“She’ll go bonkers. It’s exciting,” said Anderson, 23.


The city ordered Anderson and two other families to move out of their apartments Oct. 5, a day after it condemned the abutting Jeffris Theater, 319 W. Milwaukee St., which redeveloper Jim Grafft was demolishing.


An engineer who examined the old theater had called it unstable, and officials feared the walls could collapse.


The demolition had moved at a painstaking pace since August. Grafft said much of the work had to be done by hand because it affected other buildings. Asbestos also slowed the project.


Most of the rear of the theater is gone now, and Grafft is cleaning up the site.


The Jeffris Flats families spent at least a month at the Baymont Inn & Suites. Anderson and her daughter now live in another Jeffris Flats apartment, but they still eat microwaved food because they have no pots and pans.


Sometime during the project, lead dust was discovered in the empty apartments.


The apartments got a professional cleaning this week. On Thursday, the YWCA awaited news on the inspection test results, the last step before the families could move back in, said Kerri Parker, YWCA executive director.


“There’s no risk to children at this point from any potential lead exposure,” Parker said. “The speculation is there may have been lead dust in the neighborhood due to the demolition work.”


Only two families will move back in, Parker said. One family that stayed at the Baymont decided not to continue with the transitional living program.


The city plans to use grant money to cover the families’ hotel stay. The YWCA still is figuring out the cost of lost rent, cleaning and increased staff time.


“It is a substantial figure—in the thousands,” Parker said.


Those costs will be forwarded to the YWCA’s board of directors, she said. In the meantime, the Y is accepting donations.


Parker said she’s grateful for the city’s support and for “working with us to find the least disruptive solution possible.”


Meanwhile, Anderson said the stress has made her sick and her daughter irritable.


“I’m excited to move back home because I’m going to give my baby steak. We’re both going to have steak,” she said.


Martha Pearson, director of the YWCA’s transitional living program, said she hopes to have all five apartments occupied by January.



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